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029 Interview with Ed Welch {Transcript}

About This Transcript

Ed Welch is a counselor and faculty member at the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation (CCEF) and was our keynote speaker at the 2017 Institute “Addictions: Grace for the Journey.” In this interview with Craig and Jim, he explains how he views the intersection between shame and addiction and how to address it with counselees.

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The Care and Discipleship Podcast page.

Craig Marshall:
Hello, and welcome to the IBCD Care & Discipleship Podcast. We are on site at Mission Hills Church in San Marcos, California, for our 2017 Institute, and we’re excited today to have with us Ed Welch, who is one of our keynote speakers for our conference on addictions. Ed is a counselor and faculty member at CCEF. Ed, thanks so much for joining us for this conference.

Ed Welch:
Thanks, Craig. It’s good to be with you. I was wondering, how many years have you done this? Do you know?

Craig Marshall:
Jim can probably better answer that than I can as far as the-

Jim Newheiser:
On the conference?

Ed Welch:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jim Newheiser:
Started in the early ’80s.

Ed Welch:
Has it really? Oh.

Jim Newheiser:
For about the first 20-something, we had Jay Adams every year, and then everybody else we could bring in from the biblical counseling movement.

Ed Welch:
This is great. I’m looking forward to it. You’re experts at this, at this point, so …

Jim Newheiser:
I’m kind of third generation now.

Craig Marshall:
Right. Yeah. It’s great to have to look forward to every summer that we have this conference, and people come, and it’s a lot like a family reunion, and especially now that Jim and Caroline are out of town on the east coast, it’s great bringing them back and others.

Ed Welch:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah.

Jim Newheiser:
Bring George back every year.

Craig Marshall:
Yup.

Jim Newheiser:
He’s been gone 10 years now?

Craig Marshall:
Since 2006, yeah, so it’s neat to be able to get-

Ed Welch:
Yeah. Nice to be part of that, thanks.

Jim Newheiser:
Yeah.

Craig Marshall:
Can you tell us a little bit about what you do, and how you came into biblical counseling overall?

Ed Welch:
See if I can remember. It’s been so long. I work at CCEF outside Philadelphia, and I’ve been there since 1981. So I feel I should be much wiser than I am having been doing these things for that long. My job description at CCEF has been fairly similar for the years. Through the years, it’s largely teaching and counseling and whenever I can try to squeeze in some writing and phone calls and emails and things like that. So it’s been, I couldn’t imagine a better job to consider how does this ancient text come alive in our present struggles. Have that as my job description for 35 odd years and to have, I’ve always found this strange. I have people that come to me for counseling.

As a pastor, sometimes they come to you, but typically, we go to other people and understand what’s in their life, so I always found that to be an odd thing that people would simply come to me and sometimes not even knowing who I am. At the same time, I’m honored by that and to have an opportunity to see the spirit working in the details of people’s lives, it’s just invigorating. Excuse me for rambling on this, but I was thinking the other day about pastoral burnout and pastoral stress, which is a perennial topic, of course, and there can be all kinds of different reasons for it. But I know in my ministry in counseling is, it’s hard. You hear very, very difficult things from so many things. At the same time, to be able to pray for them, to see the spirit on the move in their lives, it’s just utterly invigorating to be able to observe that, and I find that it brings life rather than saps it, so I’m very grateful for I’ve been able to do. How did I come at it?

I grew up in a Christian home, a great Christina home but was not really interested in following Christ. John Murray has this very fine book called Redemption Accomplished and Applied, which captures some of my own experience where he talks about how there are three different stages, in a sense, to faith. One is, I want to make sure I get this right. One is you have the facts of Jesus Christ. You had to know who Jesus was. The second is you believe that those facts are true, and the third is that you trust in the one who portrayed these facts to you. And I would say that throughout most of my life, I believed the facts were true, I believed that Jesus was the Messiah, I believed that He came to concur death, but I didn’t want to follow him. So when I read Murray, I realized that’s where I was. I was stage two and not in stage three.

When I stage three, it was largely through probably fairly typically in some ways, it was of my time in university, I was looking at life ahead of me, and things seeming to have little less meaning than I anticipated, with less purpose, little less depth, if you will, and I think between that and the Scripture beginning to … I was reading the Scripture, so I was drawn to truth in some way, and over the course of probably a few months, I found myself confessing sin and coming to Christ. As a result of that, I decided I want to go to seminary, I was essentially young in the faith, but at the same time, here’s what the Bible does and it changes people and I wanted to study it more. I wasn’t necessarily thinking about a career in ministry, I didn’t know what a career in ministry really was. I was just thinking about whatever I was going to do, I wanted the Scripture to be a more solid foundation.

Went to seminary and I was just a pig in mud, just every single course was, it was this delicious delight, and then the second year was a counseling course. It was actually observing counseling being done at CCEF, and it just sort of took me. It was suited to me. I think I probably, I do, I probably I enjoy speaking with people individually, probably more than I enjoy speaking publicly. So I think that individual face to face ministry suited me, and I ended up, for some reason, taking a detour into graduate school for a few years and then came back to CCEF after that.

Craig Marshall:
It’s interesting. I think when we talk to people about counseling or diving in and walking with people through the struggles of like, some people hear that and think, “Wow, walking into all these problems and darkness and difficulty,” as you were describing it. What’s coming out is you get a front row seat to seeing God work, and it sounds like that’s prominently on your mind when you think about it. How have you seen the Lord work through His word as you’ve been engaged in people’s lives like that?

Ed Welch:
Yeah. You’re actually raising a couple of different things. One is people raise these complex stories and situations that rightly should be overwhelming, and none of have these simple sort of, here, do this and everything will be better. Not that any problem has that as an answer. But that simple turn from knowing a person to, okay, how can we pray? Given what you’re saying, how can we pray? That’s what’s certainly I find great encouragement that essentially I’m introducing, there is a person to whom we can turn with this, and we might not even know what he says at this point, but we know to whom to turn and Lord teaches us to pray. And so that’s the part that I find utterly invigorating.

Your question was, what have I observed recently in people’s lives? So is that more or less …

Craig Marshall:
Yeah, that’d be helpful. Yeah.

Ed Welch:
… what you’re asking? That’s a great question. I’ll just give you a little slice of it. It might seem like a, I’ll choose the more rare slice because I think women tend to ask for counsel a little bit more than men, and I think there are probably lots of reasons for that. Women are, I think, more open for various reason to say life is hard and I need help. Men tend not to do that, so let me introduce you to the slice of life with men because I’ve just had the opportunity to speak to more men recently.

An angry man who, like all angry men, the more angry you are, the more right you are persuaded you are. In other words, the angrier you are, the more blind you are to your own anger, and that certainly fit this particular fellow. He was utterly blind to his own anger, had no idea the devastation this was creating in his wife’s life. I think we’re talking about anger in husbands even at this conference, correct? I think your wife, Jim, is talking about that? Is that what I saw?

Jim Newheiser:
Yes. I think that’s one of Caroline’s topics, hopefully not from recent personal experience, yes.

Ed Welch:
Yeah, this is a great introduction to whatever Caroline’s going to say, but I think what captured him was the simple observation that Jesus Christ, though he was angry many times in through the New Testament stories, he was never angry when it was done against him. He was angry on behalf of others, he was angry on the moneychanger, I assume he was angry on behalf of the gentiles who were coming to worship, and the moneychangers were set up in the court of the gentiles and it was a little tough to worship when you have all this commotion going on. There was anger on behalf of others.

He was angry on behalf of the children who were kept from him, but when he was tested, when he was reviled, when he was so thoroughly dishonored, disrespected by so many people, you never get a hint of anger. And that, the spirit just, that particular insight where essentially there’s zero tolerance for our anger when it’s done against us, that captured him and it set him on a course of repentance and peace and unity with his wife. I can say, I’ll talk of other men, but he’s one I’ve especially enjoyed.

Jim Newheiser:

I’d like to have a follow-up question, Ed, because sometimes ordinary counselors like ourselves, where they go, this is the guy that’s written all the books, he’s at CCEF, so probably all of his cases at least goes well as you just described. But I would guess that there might be some cases that don’t go as well, and how do you handle that?

Ed Welch:
That’s a nasty question, Jim.

Jim Newheiser:
But you said his questions were nice, and now mine is nasty.

Ed Welch:
Yeah. It’s … Yeah, that’s a great question. I have a drawer that I lock that has a lot of files in it from people that I’ve seen. I do different things with that file cabinet. One is sometimes I’ll call people, if I have a few extra minutes, people I haven’t seen for a couple of years I call just to see what’s happened, and more often than not, you see him who began this good work has continued it.

Yet, at the same time, there are a lot of files there where people I’ve seen once or twice and didn’t come back or people I saw for a longer period of time and they didn’t go back. It becomes an opportunity to pray for frankly lots of people. I couldn’t give you percentages of how that goes, but that’s certainly … I should say my particular counseling, there’s two different ways I do counseling. One is in the context of my church where it’s pursuing people, it’s having them over for a meal, it’s getting together for coffee, it’s getting together before church or after church. The other counseling is the actual more professional, people are paying. And you would think when people are paying to come, they would be fairly eager to really do something, and they’re coming to a Christian counseling center, but that’s not necessarily the case.

Going back to what I said before about how there’s probably not a day that goes by without me being encouraged by seeing the spirit and moving somebody’s life, there’s probably not a day that goes by without me being weighted down by a person who’s unmoved by the truth of Christ and persist typically in a habit of blaming everybody else around them.

Craig Marshall:
I’m really thankful that you’ve said that because I think a lot of our listeners will get the idea that I’ve got this counseling, and I’m sure if Ed Welch were counseling this person, in one session, they’d be all better. Or if I can just get them to the right counselor that somehow they know so much, the guys are CCEF or these people who have all the training and have written the books, they can work the magic and anybody could be changed, but that’s not how it works.

Ed Welch:
There are times where a person’s situation might be very complicated, and somebody who has experience with that can find door available that people with less experience might not be able to see, so those things do occasionally happen. But here, I’ll give you two answers to what you’re identifying. One is that the Lord is pleased to really ordinary ministry to do His work in people’s lives. And what I often find is if for some reason that ordinary ministry has not been effective in somebody’s life, I will not be effective either, so …

Jim Newheiser:
That’s exactly what one of our counselors has said a few times that if their local church has tried doing basically the right thing, they may look at us as a counseling center as being the experts, but if it hasn’t worked, same way you said, you said it very well, in the ordinary ministry, then bringing in some so-called expert often won’t change anything.

Ed Welch:
Yeah.

Jim Newheiser:
Because the spirit has to work.

Craig Marshall:
Ed, we’re so thankful for your writings and that’s at IBCD, the writings that come from CCEF and a lot of things you’ve written in particular are really helpful, and we’re able to turn to those, both for training and then also helping people walk through those resources and so we’re really thankful for that. One of the things you’ve written that pertains to this conference, Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave, I was just wondering how the writing of that came about a little bit and if you can just tell our listeners something about that book in particular.

Ed Welch:
How did it come about? It came about because I was seeing lot of people who were struggling with addictions, and I wanted to be able to help a little bit better than I did. This goes back many years ago, but seeing the simple teaching on idolatry that goes throughout Scripture and making it available to the topic of addictions came about by, and here’s one of the ways I think I’ve really appreciated seeing the nature of idolatry is this phrase voluntary slavery. It shows Scripture’s sophistication, understanding addictions where it’s voluntary, we do it because we want it, we love it, we love it more than life itself, but it’s also this abject slavery and it’s controlling us and telling us what to do even if we want to get out of it. Scripture brings both of those things to the struggle of addiction. So that’s, it came because I had friends I wanted to try to help.

In some ways I would say the book on shame, which is a more recent book, it doesn’t exclusively have addictions in view but as I was writing that book, certainly brothers and sisters I know who struggled with an addiction, all of a sudden, I realized this was so critical for them as well. And books on fear and anger and everything else that can become interwoven with our addictions.

Craig Marshall:
Really looking forward to your first talk tonight, every addict lives with shame. It sounds like it’s really bringing together shame interrupted and along those things. Can you tell a little bit about where you will be going in regards how shame ties in with addiction?

Ed Welch:
I would hope that any book you write, two years or one year later, we would write it differently and at least add some things, accent things more than others. If I were to write a book on addictions today, I would certainly include a larger section on how do we turn to Christ in the midst of pain and suffering, how do we turn to Christ in the midst of victimization and where do we go when we feel like we’re covered in shame? So it becomes a long book, granted, but those topics I think are so critical for people who struggle with addictions.

What I’ll be talking about with shame is essentially that I have never encountered an addict where shame wasn’t palpable. It was visceral to them. They didn’t have to look for it, they felt it, and what would be some other words for shame? They felt that they were simply not acceptable. They had done things or they had things done to them that somehow separates them and makes them worse than the rest of the world.

I’ll give you a sort of a representative story of shame. A person who has gone through rejections, everybody has gone through rejection, granted, but some rejections are more significant than others, and to have a parent who perhaps is involved in his or her own addiction and completely ignores his or her children to have gone through a divorce at a certain age and have one parent disappear and really not be engaged in your life, to have that kind of rejection and that kind of pain is going to be this visceral sort of phenomena that it always is with you, and you feel like you got to do something with it. And then that first time you get drunk, it did something. You were able to, it seemed like you jettison them, at least you were able to avoid it for a period of time.

Or the woman who has been sexually violated. I find that so often, people who have committed themselves to certain substances, they have a history of having being treated shamefully, and the substance ends up doing lots of different duties in their lives. But certainly, one of them is it’s an occasion just to alleviate the pain of that kind of victimization.

Then, of course, once they practice their addition, then they experience shame, not because simply of what’s happened to them, but then they’ve done things. They’ve betrayed people, they have stolen from people that they love, they’ve lied to people, they’ve given promises and haven’t come through on their promises. They’ve done things when they’ve been drunk or high that they remember enough to know that it was bad stuff and it’s hurt other people. So there’s that shame compounding, and what do you do when shame compounds? Well, all you can do is go back to the one thing that seemed to alleviate it temporarily.

So you can see how shame is so much a part of an addict’s story, and if the hope that we’re offering is an opportunity to be surprised by this God who invites, an addict who’s struggling with shame, they don’t want to turn to Christ because of all the things they’ve done. They don’t want to somehow be exposed before Jesus, they don’t want to be known before him. So the very one who is their only hope, the only place they can go with their shame is the one they feel like they have to avoid because of what they feel like to be the despicable things in their own lives.

So our task is how can we ask somebody to listen to a story that is different than anything they could possibly imagine and to begin to go through Scripture with them, the God who comes to enemies, the God who seems to have a preference for the outcast and the rejected and the one who’s considered to be despicable? To give those stories to people to pray through them with another person until they’re actually persuaded that indeed He is one who invites them and they can go toward Him.

Excuse me for going on that, but … What am I saying? I’m saying that I can’t remember the last … I talk about shame with every person who struggles with an addition.

Craig Marshall:
So you’ve been involved in biblical counseling since 1981, I think you said? Was that [crosstalk 00:22:45]?

Ed Welch:
More or less, yeah, that’s when I started at CCEF, yeah.

Craig Marshall:
That’s quite an amount of time to be involved and see things grow and change. I’m just curious from your own perspective what you’re excited about in biblical counseling, what challengers you see in the biblical counseling world, movement, whatever that can be referred to as, but some of your perspective of the things you’ve seen and what you’re seeing or hoping is going to continue to happen going forward.

Ed Welch:
Yeah. It’s a great question. What I’m excited about is that there’s so much more leadership, and maybe I’ll put it this way. There are, you have this organization here, you have ACBC, you have CCEF, lots of acronyms around here.

Craig Marshall:
Los of acronyms.

Ed Welch:
Yeah. Los of initials. That’s just three. There are all these really fine biblical counseling organizations that are cropping up, so for me, that is very exciting to see that. I especially appreciate how there are, in a sense, they’re cropping up independently. Instead of having this federal government that owns it all, there are all these states and they’re flourishing, so I’ve really appreciated that, that I think it comes from a church who is looking for help in their pastoral care. The sheer amount of people who are doing biblical counseling and the organizations that are leading the charge, that’s very exciting to me.

The other side, what needs to be done. I’m a glass half full kind of guy, I think, by nature, and you try to make your nature work for you, so I like being a glass half full guy.

Jim Newheiser: I covered the other half of that glass.

Ed Welch:
So maybe I’ll speak personally what do I need to do, what do I hope we all can do? I hope we can, you know, ministry consists essentially of these two parts of knowing a person and knowing the Scripture. And I think historically, we tend to know Scripture fairly well, but sometimes we go quickly over knowing the person. And I would like there to be this generation after generation of material that when people read it, they say, that’s me. That person has described my very experience better than I could have described it myself. This person knows me. I would like us to do that, I would like us to have stories and case studies of people that are vivid and three-dimensional and shows everything, the really good things in a person’s life and the hard things and the bad things all in one sort of composite mess. So first as a group for people to go away saying, not only did that person know me, but they know me in a way that I’ve never been known, they know me in depths where I haven’t been known before. That’s one.

I guess a second is, and this is certainly one of the things I see in biblical counseling is that we continue to reach broadly. We live in an era where there are new problems. There are variations on old problems, granted, but new problems emerge and how can we be prepared for them, how can we speak well to them from cutting to Asperger’s and autism to violent children, and there, I think it’s important for us to have as much experience as possible where we didn’t just see one violent kid, we’ve seen 10 violent kids. We didn’t just see one autistic child, we know 10 autistic families.

You know, there’s something about that experience that brings humility on one hand, because we realize we don’t know the answers, but at the same time, we have some idea of what has been helpful for individual people and families. So I would say those two things would be two things that the movement can grow onto have a depth of understanding the people and communicate that but also have these sort of farther reaches to continue to extend boundaries and move into every modern problem there is and speak persuasively to those.

Craig Marshall: One of the things you mentioned is the various organizations, the various groups speaking to these things, and on the one hand, that’s exciting to see what the Lord is doing. The downside of that can be, not to be glass half empty but we can-

Jim Newheiser:
Oh, please. Yeah.

Craig Marshall:
Do you want to bring that … But we can not know what the other groups are saying or speak past each other or there can be disunity as more groups develop or things like that. Are there things that you have in mind that can help us all continue to work well together as we’re seeking to help people or [crosstalk 00:28:23]-

Ed Welch:
You’re asking the wrong person for that in some sense. I don’t think I do that very well myself. In part because I get emersed in a project and I’m busy and I have plenty to do in front of me. But what I’ve seen happen within biblical counseling is, well, here’s one thing. I’m at an IBCD seminar or conference and I work at CCEF. Well, you guys have graciously invited me to come, and having come means, Craig, I get to know you a little bit better, I get to know some of your people a little bit better, hear some of the things that are happening here. So, for me, that’s just plain invaluable. There’s something about knowing someone and meeting them face to face and spending time on their turf which you just feel like you know somebody better.

And I do see that happening throughout biblical counseling where people are being invited to each other’s conferences, and that makes a huge difference. So it’s happening. I feel like a slugger there in part because I don’t put on the conferences and don’t decide who’s going to come, but I so appreciate how there is much more face to face contact with people from different organizations.

Craig Marshall: And I guess interpreting some of the lack of face to face contact sometimes is just exactly what you’re saying. Being so focused on just seeking to help people, not wanting not to talk to each other, but we’re all just poring into the various things we are.

Ed Welch:
Yeah. Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Craig Marshall:
Interpreting that in the most charitable way possible goes a really long way as well.

Jim Newheiser:
You say you like to be buried in your projects, so do you have another project on which you’re working?

Ed Welch:
The one I just finished. This man I mentioned who struggled with anger, actually, it comes out of a, probably around 10 years ago, I had a few angry men that I was speaking with, and they were all going bad, all going bad. And I began to consider have I ever seen an angry man change? And I couldn’t remember. A person who really specialized in anger haven’t really changed. And I began to ask my colleagues, “Have you ever seen an angry man change?” And they sort of chuckled, but they said no. Get a face in mind. Can you identify somebody? Don’t just give me a hypothetical, yeah, Scripture can change anybody through the spirit. And it just set me off, I think, to Lord, teach me how to speak to angry men.

So what came out of that was a book of, I think, 50 different devotional kinds of things, assuming that angry men at not going to read a whole lot. And it’s really easy, it’s looking in the mirror and you forget who you were as soon as you go away, so I’ve written 50 devotional for angry men on anger. So it’s just something to remind you every day, so I’ve done that. That was good fun.

The project I’m working on right now is I’m finishing up a book, this is not going to sound very exciting. It’s essentially asking the question who are we and the Scripture has various answers to that, but the answer that I’m pursuing is we are a royal priesthood and that priestly motif, that priestly calling in Scripture is such a precious one because it’s the priests who were close to the Lord. They were the ones who were invited into the farther reaches of the temple. So when you talk about communion and living in the very house of God, a priest is very much in view. And I found that to be personally very profitable. For example, to recognize that growth and obedience is not some version of try harder in stoicism, it serves the purpose of communion. In the same way that obedience to the rules of marriage, they serve communion and closeness in my relationship with my wife. Similarly, growing obedience to Christ, it’s not obedience for obedience sake, it’s obedience that serves the purpose of communion and progressive nearness to the Lord. So that’s just one of the themes that comes out of the priesthood.

That’s what I’m working on now. Thanks for asking that.

Jim Newheiser:
I’ve really appreciated how the Lord has used you and your ministry. When you describe what you think the movement needs to do or somebody would hear you or read what you wrote and say, “That’s me,” because that’s been my experience and the experience of people whom I’ve counseled when they’ve read what you’ve written where I remember especially with the addictions book and with when people are big and God is small where I would assign to people and they said, “That’s me. You understand how the addict feels, you understand how the person who’s idolizing approval or people, not just on the theoretical level, and I’m sure it flows out of the counseling where you’ve been with these people and so is the temptations we face, we have in common. But coming out of that, you can bring the Scripture to bear very effectively.

Ed Welch:
That’s kind of you to say. It’s very encouraging. I see the glass half empty and more than half full, so I see all kinds of room to grow in that but thanks. Thanks, Jim.

Craig Marshall:
Well, Ed, we’re so thankful for you coming into speak at our conference. We’re really looking forward to the talk that you’re going to be doing and then just getting down to sit down and talk with you some more. We’re so thankful, too, for the ministry of CCEF, the resources you have, the training you have, so we’ll have links to those things in our show notes as well. Thanks so much for coming out here, and we’re really looking forward to getting to know you a little bit better.

Ed Welch:
Oh. Pleasure. Thanks so much, Craig.

Craig Marshall:
And finally, for our listeners, I just wanted to maintain that by the time these episodes are airing, all of the audios from the conference will be available for free on our website. Pre-conference workshops, everything, and videos from the general sessions as well. All available at IBCD.org. That’s IBCD.org.

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